Fixed or variable-rate mortgage?
This spring we’re seeing aggressive pricing for variable-rate mortgages, while fixed mortgage rates continue to be at historically low levels. Which is best for today’s uncertain environment?
First, a refresher on the differences. With a fixed-rate mortgage, you’ll know with absolute certainty what your rate and payment will be each month for the term of your mortgage, offering you stability and peace of mind. Since fixed rate mortgages are not affected by fluctuating interest rates, you can "set it and forget it." Typically preferred by those on a tight budget, first-time buyers, or those who haven’t owned a home for a long time.
A variable mortgage has an interest rate that will move in conjunction with your lender’s Prime rate, which in turn tracks the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate and will be expressed as “prime minus x percent.” If the Bank of Canada raises or lowers its rate, then you’ll likely see that reflected in your mortgage payment. Since it can be difficult to predict what kind of rate ups and downs are ahead, a variable-rate mortgage is best suited to people who have a flexible budget and can tolerate slightly more risk.
Right now, variable rate offers are very compelling causing the demand to be at some of the highest levels ever seen. But it’s not just about the rate. If your circumstances change and you need to get out of your mortgage – and approximately 2 out of 3 people with fixed mortgages do end up breaking their mortgage -- you will appreciate the much lower penalty to get out of a variable vs a fixed mortgage. It’s important to consider the many “what if” scenarios that could happen over the term of your mortgage.
Most variables allow you to exercise an option to “lock in” a fixed rate with no penalties when the time is right for you to lock into a fixed-rate mortgage. You can also set up your payments at what they would be if you took the higher fixed rate, which helps you pay down your mortgage faster, and creates a financial buffer for you if rates rise later.
With inflation concerns on the horizon, the Bank of Canada may raise the overnight rate sooner than expected, which will affect those in variable mortgages. While most economists agree that no one can predict what will happen with inflation as the economy continues to reopen, it is a going forward concern.
Bottom line is to always get advice; the best choice depends on your situation. If you are looking to purchase, renew, or refinance to get today’s low rates or for debt consolidation, get in touch so we can discuss your situation and determine the best option for you.
New stress test for all mortgages now in effect
The Department of Finance has announced that insured mortgages will have the same stress test that OSFI recently introduced for uninsured mortgages. The stress test for both will be the greater of the borrower’s mortgage contract rate plus 2% or 5.25%, up from the current 4.79%, which means qualifying has become slightly harder for some.